People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances will remain victims until they develop a greater vision for their lives.
One thing that holds people back from fully practicing responsibility is that true freedom frightens them.
Human beings are hardwired to avoid responsibility, to avoid ownership, to avoid learning, and to avoid growth. We are completely able and wired to do that.
We are also hardwired to take responsibility, to own it, to learn, and to grow.
The same mental process connects avoiding and taking responsibility.
One way we can look at this process is by calling part of it ‘the control prison’ and the other part ‘The Leadership Gift™.’
How to Avoid the Control Prison and Learn to Lead Yourself First
The control prison is all of the positions on The Responsibility Process™ chart below Responsibility. No learning occurs here.
Instead, we are operating from mindsets of Denial, Lay Blame, Justify, Shame, Obligation or Quit in order to cope with problems we don’t know how to overcome. We don’t know how to be bigger than the problem or get the lesson from it so we handle it successfully next time.
When you’re operating from the control prison, you inadvertently and continuously sabotage yourself, your power, and ability. You do it to temporarily feel better and cope.
In this place, your potential is never fully realized, and your team or organization’s collective energy remains diminished. And whatever the problem is you’re dealing with, it will remain and haunt you over and over if you don’t learn to lead yourself first.
When a problem happens, we don’t look good — and we like looking good. Therefore, we feel out of control and stressed and anxious. We want to get back into control and look good.
Next, we evaluate — we have thoughts of good, bad, right, wrong, should and shouldn’t. That response leads to another thought process: “What should I do?” We start examining our mind’s database for answers about what to do.
If we don’t have enough advice in our own mental database, we call our buddies, go out for a beer, sit at the bar telling our sob story, and ask them what we should do. Sound familiar?
When we find an answer that satisfies us and alleviates our anxiety, then we focus on complying with this advice. We tell ourselves: “I have to do that right now.”
Or, if we’re in management or if we’re parents, teachers or coaches, we tell others, “You should do this, do it right now, it’s the right thing.” It alleviates our immediate anxiety and we feel back in control.
In this control prison, we never actually address the real problem because we never see the real problem. Therefore we only address the anxiety, which means the problem never gets solved. So the anxiety keeps coming back and the problem never goes away.
If you see yourself constantly complaining about the same thing day after day, week after week, then there’s probably something there for you to see and learn that can solve the real problem once and for all.
Real obstacles don’t have to take you in circles — they can be overcome. Learn to lead yourself first.
Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip
Do you find yourself complaining or getting stressed out about the same thing over and over again? Then maybe it is time to find a different way to tackle this situation.
Don’t expect other people to change — that might never happen. But you can work on changing how you react and learn to deal with situations differently. How? Look for the real causes — be willing to be truthful with yourself. Applying lessons from The Leadership Gift or using tips in my many blog post will help.
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Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.